The voter suppression laws that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott boasted would make it “easier to vote and harder to cheat” are certainly doing one of those things. There won’t be any voter fraud if Texans can’t reliably cast their ballots—a problem that has plagued the Mar. 1 primary since early voting began. According to the Associated Press, 27,000 ballots have been flagged for rejection. The AP spoke with one woman whose ballot was flagged multiple times. She still ended up being able to vote but it took her “three tries and 28 days.”
The reason her ballot couldn’t be accepted? Texas enacted a strict voter ID law that requires a voter to submit the same identification for their ballot as the ID they used to register to vote in the first place. For many people, who registered to vote years—if not decades—ago, that’s a pretty big ask. Voter ID issues led to numerous early voting ballots being flagged, especially in Harris County, where Houston is located.
The absolute headache of new voter laws led to major issues in Harris County in the Mar. 1 primary—to the point that County Elections Administrator Isabel Longoria resigned on Tuesday. According to KHOU, Harris County failed to count around 10,000 mail-in ballots on election night. It took until Tuesday of this week for the ballots to finally be counted.
Naturally, the Harris County GOP took this as an opportunity to be big mad about their own voting laws biting constituents in the ass, seemingly having no grasp of the mess that they created reflecting poorly on them. The Harris County GOP applauded Longoria’s resignation, said that “it is not the only step that the Harris County voter needs to see take place before the next election is held,” and called for “independent oversight.” Because Republicans are wildly dramatic, the Harris County GOP actually filed a lawsuit against Longoria for having a hard time doing her job in the face of the many restrictions Texas lawmakers gleefully passed to make it harder to vote.
It’s unclear how many ballots were ultimately rejected, but the AP estimates that the figure will far exceed the less than 1% of ballots rejected during the 2020 election. Data from 120 of Texas’ 245 counties shows that around 17% of mail-in ballots were initially rejected by officials. It’s unlikely that such a high figure will stay that way, however. On Mar. 2, the number of flagged mail-in ballots in Harris County exceeded 11,000. That number plummeted to 3,277 the next day. Just outside of Austin in Williamson County, the final number of rejected ballots added up to 11.5% of all ballots received.
For those who are at least registered to vote, there’s a chance to finally have their vote counted even if a ballot’s been flagged multiple times. Texans who have been purged from voter rolls face a more uphill battle. Many voters who have been registered for quite some time are being flagged as “non-citizens,” according to the ACLU of Texas, but election officials have offered little explanation as to why.
Voters who are affected must then verify their citizenship or risk being purged from the voter rolls. What many registrars discovered, according to the ACLU of Texas, was that many of the voters whose registration was flagged were naturalized citizens whose status should never be in question. A records request by the ACLU of Texas and other groups failed to produce any records, so the ACLU of Texas, Campaign Legal Center, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and DĒMOS decided to sue the Texas Secretary of State.
“The right to vote is what makes this country a free one and naturalized citizens in Texas, and every U.S. state, should not have to worry about being purged from the voting rolls,” Campaign Legal Center Vice President Paul Smith said in a statement. “We all deserve the chance to cast our ballots freely, safely, and equally. Sadly, it is clear that the court now needs to step in and protect that freedom by compelling the state to produce the records for this program—thereby making our elections safe, accessible, and transparent.”
The groups have asked a federal court to grant the records request. According to the Texas Tribune, Gov. Greg Abbott will face off against Democrat Beto O’Rourke, both Democrats and Republicans vying for the attorney general position will face runoffs, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick secured his nomination but there will be a runoff between Democrats Mike Collier and Michelle Beckley. There are plenty of races to watch ahead of the May 24 runoff election and Nov. 8 general election, as well. Here’s hoping the Texans these candidates could represent are able to actually cast their ballots.